If there were a twelve step program for shoe shoppers, sign me up. I counted my black shoes this morning, fourteen pairs—four pairs of sandals, five pairs of heels including open toe, two suede numbers, five low heel flats, some with black mixed in,  including red and black leopard (yes I’m serious), black and white patent and two pairs of boots. Do I really need this many black shoes?

            What is about me and shoes anyway? As a child we had our before-school shoe-shopping ritual. We got all dressed up in dresses and even gloves and  took the bus “downtown” in San Francisco to the venerable shoe store, Sommer and Kaufman on Market Street. We’d first put our feet in to an X-ray machine to supposedly get us the best fit based on our bone structure. It was probably phony anyway and certainly getting a dose of radiation wasn’t a good thing.

            My sister and I were allowed to get two pairs, a pair of shoes for school and a pair of “party” shoes that were designated to wear to temple for the high holidays or for birthday parties. Even at a young age, I had a sense of wanting to get the shoe of the season whether they were two toned camel and beige saddle shoes, white buck, or penny loafers. The other pair would be black patent. It was a rite of passage to graduate from Mary Janes with straps to strapless. I wanted strapless flats in the worst way so I could be like my older cousin.

            The other part of the back to school ritual was that the shoes had to stay in the box in the closet until the first day of school. This gave them a certain magical attraction. One year I was allowed to wear my shoes before school when I had to go to the hospital because I had pneumonia. My mother knew wearing them would cheer me up. This memory is still vivid for me.

            Another issue for me was the fact that for a kid in the 1960’s, I had big feet. Wearing a size 10 then was unusual and it wasn’t always easy to find shoes. This was long before Nordstrom’s came in to town which specialized in small and big shoe sizes and of course before Zappos today where your dream shoe is only a click away and can be at your doorstep the next day.

            I’ll confess. I can’t resist the racks of shoes on sale I run into in shoe departments, but I get my fix just trying  shoes on and  sashaying in front of the mirror. One time madly dashing in to Nordstrom’s before my daughter’s wedding, I tried on a pair. That evening I glanced down at my feet and noticed I had one of Nordstrom’s shoes on and one of mine. Oops.

            The shoes I wore for one of my daughter’s wedding perfectly accented the magenta mother of the bride outfit I had bought. They were an iridescent purple with a jewel ornament, higher than I ever wore but surprisingly comfortable. I haven’t worn them since the wedding, but I can’t get rid of them. They are part of the stash of shoes that I purchased for a special occasion that stay in their boxes, ready just in case they need to be called back in to service like reserve army soldiers.

            The one thing that has changed for me is that I now strive for comfort. I can’t stand having my feet hurt just because I want to look good. I’ve done that and suffered in agony. My vanity has been trumped by sanity. I have also learned that when I travel,  I absolutely need to have comfortable walking shoes.

            It is interesting that none of my three daughters wear heels or subject themselves to shoes that are not comfortable. Each has her own sense of style but will not sacrifice comfort no matter what. They never went through a phase of wearing high heels and are much more relaxed about shoes. I’m glad they did not inherit my shoe addiction.

Sometimes I think about simplifying my life, narrowing my closet down to just a few basic things to wear and a few pairs of shoes. I’m not sure I would like that feeling. Bottom line is that I really enjoy agonizing over finding the right pair for a special occasion. The “hunt” is part of the fun. I also love having the UPS truck drop them off at the door reminding me of my special shoes kept for school. Some things never change….

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